Don't freak out the children

27th October 2006 at 01:00
A former primary school teacher has written a practical guide to staging alternative Halloween celebrations for groups troubled by the festival's dark connotations.

Halloween is the third biggest date in retailers' calendars, after Christmas and Easter. Half-term date changes this year mean teachers are more likely to be directly affected by the issue as most children will be at school on October 31. Halloween usually falls during the break.

Nick Harding, the author of Better than Halloween, is the children's mission support officer for the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham. His book is aimed at church schools and Christian groups. However, he says the issues raised are relevant to all schools and organisations which may find that parents object to Halloween activities or whose staff have reservations about a festival which has acquired undertones of the occult.

Mr Harding, who taught for four years, said life was hard enough for most children without emphasising death. He said: "It's not about hiding death, it's about saying let's be positive, which is a good message for schools.

"From a teacher's point of view, Halloween is a very good thing to use as a springboard, but not all parents are positive about it, not only because of the spiritual side but because of the anti-social behaviour associated with trick-or-treating."

He suggests holding celebrations of light and colour as an alternative to spooky parties.

The Rev Barry Furness, a former governor of Morley CofE primary, near Norwich, said a groundswell of support from parents led him and Peter Clough, the headteacher, to arrange an alternative Halloween party for pupils after school on Tuesday.

Mr Furness said the book had proved helpful. The school's colour-themed party will look at the stories of Noah and Joseph and his coloured coat.

Children will wear bright clothes and take part in crafts and singing.

Party food will be provided.

The Bishop of Bolton, David Gillett, provided the book's foreword. For several years he has written to the big supermarket chains expressing his concerns about their promotion of Halloween products. He has released a poster showing images of masks on sale, including one depicting a serial killer film character. The poster carries the tagline "Not all parents want to see their kids dressed as monsters or murderers this Halloween".

See the Bishop of Bolton's website www.halloweenchoice.org

leader, 20

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